The Mechanics of our Journey from the Dharmic Tree of Life to the Western Tech-State
(Image source: istockphoto.com)
Not many on our side may resonate with my cynical outlook on high technology and the centralized state. But, I would invite them to read this piece nonetheless so that we, as the Sanatani people may become more conscious and introspective about these matters, hopefully leading us to a possible, pragmatic semi-Dharmic compromise.
The worldly life is full of competing truths. Things that make some people happy can also make other people unhappy. Things that make us happy now can also make us unhappy at some other time or place. It was apparent to our rishis and continues to be apparent today to us, that worldly truths are both subjective (dependent on the perceiver) and subject to change themselves over time and space.
These days it has become a habit to assign quantitative values to subjective truths in an effort to “measure” them and “make them objective” – GDP, happiness index, religious freedom index etc. But just because some subjective truths are quantifiable along arbitrary metrics it does not actually make them objective. Any metric used to quantify truths apart from being limited, also fails to take into consideration the second and third order downstream effects of these truths which are themselves un-measurable and subjective. For example – GDP tries to be an “objective” measure of a subjective truth called “progress”. Progress is irrationally linked with the idea of an increase in human well-being, but paradoxically, it is simultaneously engaged in poisoning our food, giving us cancer, putting us in a surveillance state etc. all of which are the exact opposite of well-being! What do we make of that?
It becomes apparent that while subjective truths may be quantifiable along one metric, that quantifiability does not automatically lead to greater clarity along any other metric.
Acknowledging this all-pervasive state of inter-related chaos, all our darshanas called this interplay of subjective truths as maya. Only the unchanging and eternal absolute truth was termed objective and therefore real.
This recognition of maya came very early to Hindu civilization but it took until the late 20th Century for the Western mind to perceive it. The Western mind perceived this phenomenon in the physical world as quantum physics and in the social world as postmodern-relativism. Until that slow realization, they struggled under irrational Christian supremacist beliefs that led them down the road to the Dark Ages, slavery, genocide, colonization, “World Wars,” and the Holocaust. It is not clear if they have emerged from this suicidal mindset but there are clues that many morally-minded academicians and common folk do realize that they have to step away from supremacy. Unfortunately, they have conflated supremacy with hierarchy, and the road they have taken since the fall of modernity post WW-2 has been even more spectacularly irrational.
While the Hindu mind responded to maya with moksha and dharma, the Western postmodern mind continues to struggle with it and most frequently responds with hedonism and/or nihilism (everything is meaningless). The Western understanding follows the line of thought that if all worldly truths are subjective, then they must all be equal because they are all equally false. This leads directly to the idea that nothing is sacred and therefore life is meaningless. This leads logically to the adoption of hedonism and nihilism as guiding principles in Western anti-culture.
At the institutional level, the adoption of the worldview that all truths are equally false has led the West (and increasingly us) to the door of revolutionary “equality” – the idea that if every subjective truth is equally false, then all hierarchy is inauthentic. Our task then is to coercively erase any hierarchy that may organically emerge among subjective truths, and all hierarchies that have arisen in the past must be replaced by newer systems that would ideally be mathematical or technological so that the impulse to hierarchy in the human touch is effectively obliterated.
The application of this ideal is currently tearing apart the human social fabric and is being pursued desperately in both India and the West as a means to what Jordan Peterson calls equality of outcome. This approach elevates an artificially (and sometimes coercively) imposed “equality” as the touchstone against which every other value has to be measured and to which they must all eventually submit. This ideal is the foundation of wokeism. See the legislation in California that aims to ban the teaching of Advanced Math in school because not everyone is equally good at it! Take a look at the education policy in Scotland that allows schools to assign gender to students as young as four without parental consent! See the beginnings of a fresh erosion of traditional morality as professors at major US universities start to normalize paedophilia! After all, if all truths are equal, then what is the value-metric one can possibly use to define morality?
Traditional Bharatiya society on the other hand, did not follow the route taken by the West. Instead of taking the untenable position that all truths are equal, we took the position that subjective worldly truths must be arranged into a hierarchy of truths. Those truths that were seen as leading us towards the absolute truth were considered higher truths and those truths that led us away from the absolute truth were deemed lower truths. This is the fundamental understanding that leads to the development of values and social institutions that are based on those values. There is a hierarchy of values. Sometimes, the values are closely mapped and it is difficult to choose between them leading to what is called “dharma-sankat”. Take for instance the episode in the Mahabharata: “Should Bhima respond to Draupadi’s pleas or should he keep his elder brother’s promise?” But, for the most part, in normal life, the traditions have already parsed and sorted our values into a hierarchy that is designed to lead us closer to the absolute truth. We don’t have to go through this process every day, ourselves. We can lean on the collective wisdom of the ancients. We can also add to that repository of wisdom as we work our way through newer dharma-sankats.
It is therefore that in daily life tradition acts as a road-map and a decision-making machine for human communities and individuals. It takes the stress of living away from us so we can all simply focus on living.
I now invite you all to think of traditions as the sticks that form a nest for humans within the wider natural world. Traditions form a human-nest. Life outside of the nest was not recommended for ordinary people lest they go mad. The individual is simply not mentally and emotionally equipped for life alone. The sheer physical difficulty of survival and emotional difficulty of being face-to-face with a raw and disinterested natural world will drive an individual mad or to death. Such a life was reserved only for the adept few who had outgrown the human condition… the masters.
In the Hindu world, the sticks that make our nest are the samskaaras. The tree that holds the nest up are our values (derived from the Puranas and the Itihaasas). Both the tree and the nest prepare us for that moment in life or in coming lifetimes, when we are ready for flight… a journey towards the absolute truth. Until then, our essential work in life is the maintenance of our nests and the watering of our tree.
What happened with the advent of Western modernity is that even the last vestiges of Christian “traditions” were discarded and individuals fell from their human nests and hurtled towards the ground. Western “experts” had to hurriedly create an intellectual net to catch their falling selves. This net they called “Humanism”. In reality, it was nothing but a post-rationalization of the final fall of Western Man from the human nest.
A detailed description of the strands that wove the net of humanism was provided by Sigmund Freud. He explained its essential character in psychological, emotional, and sexual terms. This study of the imploded man through the Freudian lens came to be celebrated as our “real selves” while the original human nest was derided as “regressive”. The fall from the nest into the net was celebrated as “freedom”.
As one can imagine, a net woven together by strands of emotional and sexual indulgence was not the ideal basis for the formation or maintenance of civilization. As a foundation for civilization or even culture, the Freudian net was, and continues to be, an utter failure. It has to be held up by something more robust. It has to rest upon a structure that would perform the role that the value-tree originally performed. That structure, that replaced our traditional values, was the technological state — our new tree of values.
The “Tech-State” is an enormous global system of machines, connecting pipes and processes that organizes and propels resources (humans, energy, and material) at ever more dizzying speeds around the world (and more recently to outer space). The Tech-State generates an enormous surplus and it is this surplus that is the life-blood of the Freudian web. Without this surplus, the emotional and sexual indulgence of the web would become prohibitively unsustainable and the strands of the web would simply snap, sending the modern human hurtling to the ground. We can now see why Western Man needs the Tech-State (also called the “system”) so desperately. We can see why it must be saved at all costs. Because, without it, the fuel for our self-indulgence would dry up. The entire intellectual edifice of “Humanism” would crumble and we would be left with the unappetizing option of having to return to our regressive traditions. To prevent or postpone this eventuality, we offer ourselves up as resources to the Tech-State — as fuel to its fire, to keep the engine going. We trade our liberty for its surplus. The Tech-State does not want community, it does not want religion, and it does not want tradition or meaning. All it wants is for us to conform to the 9 to 5 routines, and in return it offers us distractions and addictions.
Look how the national leaders at the United Nations have stopped representing their cultures and have started representing their economies and the interests of their corporations. We humans, and our exuberant manifestations of life have been rendered obsolete. Here, in India, these fears may seem alarmist because we are still on “the way up” and we still have our grandparents and our festivals but Westerners understand what they have lost. They lament but are powerless to recover themselves in the face of the machine that they themselves have created. As we observe the West, we need to tone down our optimism for their vision and spend a lot more energy building intellectual and institutional dams to control the flow of their wild river. We need to put our heads down, practice our samskaaras, and connect with our children. We need to make sure that when this foreign flood has abated, we would have retained a third of our Bharatiya selves. I am pessimistic if we can retain more than that.
Watching Wild Wild Country recently reminded me again of how frail the individual psyche is. That when left rudderless, it simply implodes. Osho bhakts and other New-Ageists may call it self-discovery, or seeking, or whatever, but it is merely the human individual imploding outside the nest of community and tradition – a flightless bird spiralling towards the ground. It leads absolutely nowhere. We must keep our eye on the fact that no ashram of any master (whether real or pretend) has ever created a superior human being, let alone another master. Modern ashrams provide solace to rudderless individuals, but they have all failed at regenerating themselves. That is why the ashrams of yore were not places of self-discovery but places where students learned the skills of “nest-maintenance”. From the sapta rishis, and from Gautama to Ramana, we see that it was only contact with raw nature and/or silence that taught true self-discovery and in fact opened up channels for higher order knowledge flow — if one survived the encounter and retained one’s faculties.
So, what then is the true nature of this new tree of values that many of us have adopted and have grown more and more addicted to?
- The Tech-State is Universalist. It wants us all. It wants to control our dreams. It wants to replace our Gods.
This characteristic was not so obvious or disturbing to many of us until recently because we were still largely surrounded by the natural and traditional world. This is no longer true, and as post-geographic technologies have grown, the universalist nature of the Tech-State can find its way into every nook and corner of our world. The Covid years have shown that mind and body control of literally the entire human population is now a possibility. The more people get on TV, the more they get on the internet, the more they get on to the international banking system, the more they get on the slipstreams of big-pharma and big-agri, the more susceptible we all are to being manipulated.
Did you know that farmers in Europe are not allowed to grow and share seeds? Did you know that the Government of Tamil Nadu has stipulated that no private person can own an unlicensed indigenous bull nor use it for breeding?
People cannot be left alone. If you are not a super-elite (Gates, Rothschild, etc., who actually control the state), then you are either —
- held in permanent suspension by the state through subsidies, doles, etc., that keep one forever in the state’s debt. Such a person can never resist or rise against the state because the state is his/her ma-baap.
- taxed by the state until you are essentially in chains. Any smidgen of freedom that an independent minded person may discover will, in due course, attract the state’s attention, and that activity will be taxed and licensed.
Here is the great paradox: the state which was created ostensibly with the intent to protect people’s liberties cannot accept a single free person/community within its borders. It is apparent that our independence is not its concern. Our dependence upon it, on the other hand, is very much its concern. It wants to be the final arbiter of our destinies. Unfortunately, most humans are not concerned with liberty if they are granted TV/fridge/Netflix in exchange. This is the dehumanised condition we find ourselves in today, a far cry from the mindset of the heroes who composed the suktas of the Rig Veda.
- The Tech-State is Bottom-Feeding
The Tech-State holds us all in a Freudian web of “equally false” relativist truths, and the Tech-State uses our negative emotions (that have been post-rationalized as “our real selves”) to both feed us and control us. Its engine runs on human greed, lust, pride, selfishness, fear, and victimhood. All these are leveraged to push us harder, and when we slip, to hold us to ransom.
- The Tech-State is Anti-Liberty (and for once, here, I use the word Liberty in its original sense.)
Like all other Abrahamic religions before, the Tech-State too wants total conformity. The question to ask now is, “What does the Tech-State want?”
It is not entirely clear, but for all practical purposes, its goal appears to be “Efficiency” with a capital E. To this new “Efficiency God,” anything that does not result in greater and faster flow of resources, energy, and money will be deemed worthy of sacrifice and elimination.
Humans are definitely slated for elimination when the time comes, but until then, the Tech-State finds it necessary to control them as far as possible, and for this it is essential to have them all operating under a single Operating System (OS). The culture of post-geographic social media systems provides the perfect template for creating that single OS. Traditions, religions, families, old loyalties, borders… all of these constructs are obstacles. They come in the way. It is against this backdrop that we should read the elimination of families, traditions, communities, gender, etc. In one word — hyper-secularization. Not just separation of state and religion, but elimination of human assemblies by the state and its replacement with technological assemblies. Humans are downstream of these assemblies. Do you control the social media presence in your life or does it control you? The borders are already fuzzy. Expect that those borders will entirely collapse in the coming decades. As Musk says – “If we don’t become cyborgs, we risk irrelevance”.
Succumbing to total control by a vastly more superior un-human/inhuman system with its own unknown end goals is anti-Liberty.
The Tech-State is not interested in human well-being and in fact, may be aligned with a post-human world. The Tech-State is our new value-tree but it has a radically different character from our old value-tree. The old value-tree and our samskaaric nest were designed for humans to realize their full potential and aim for transcendence towards the Divine Absolute.
The Tech-State’s character is not entirely clear yet, but it appears to be aligned with a mechanical urge to realize pure efficiency… and we, the obsolete humans, are to serve as resources to that end. As we move towards an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and bio-manipulative future, the elite push to a post-human future is becoming more and more apparent.
And the madness does not stop there. We must know that the quasi-religion of the super-elites — Longtermism — “asserts that there could be so many digital people living in vast computer simulations millions or billions of years in the future that one of our most important moral obligations today is to take actions that ensure as many of these digital people come into existence as possible.”
So, no, it is not important that we leave a clean and abundant world for our children, but it is important that we subsidise the lives of billions of digital people on other planets! If we think this is funny, remember the joke is on us.
- The Tech-State is Asuric/Demonic
When looked at closely, the Tech-State’s post-human vision maps very closely to say, the worldview of Aurobindo who saw humans as part of a play by the Absolute to re-discover Herself. That is, humans are but a short-term pit stop in the grand journey to evolve into a higher consciousness. But the great difference between the Aurobindonian view and the Tech-State view is that the former places humans at the centre of its metaphysics, as entities who have agency to evolve, while the latter views humans as disposable resources who will play a part not in reaching the Divine but in enabling the Machine to supersede them.
One striking aspect of the Tech-State which gives away its essential asuric nature is its increasing focus on negative human emotions to run its engine (greed, pride, lust, envy, fear, etc). In sharp contrast, all Dharmic systems focus on our higher emotions – happiness, courage, altruism, service, etc.
Further evidence of the Tech-State’s asuric nature is to be found in its constant movement towards the theft of human liberty via total surveillance and eventual bio-manipulation. It promises that it will lead us to greater happiness. It is no doubt a sleight of hand. We know that greater convenience that the Tech-State promises requires the sacrifice of liberties, but beyond a point the convenience to liberty graph does not lead to greater happiness, and may in fact lead to what any sane person would classify as hell.
The Tech-State couches its intentions in words like happiness and well-being but though it was created by humans and is ostensibly run by humans, has an interest in human welfare only as long as it can be convinced that we are useful resources. The human body, human behaviour, our children… are all resources, not agents of divinity as our rishis imagined, but resources like minerals and petrol. I don’t think we are paying enough attention, and even when we do we ignore the matter because it is too horrific to contemplate. But that attitude is what allows the system to take baby steps without resistance until pretty soon we are way over the horizon of what we would have considered “normal and human”.
The game is well underway.
- “…it’s all about scale. By overcoming the imprinting problem, “the world is their oyster as far as genetic engineering”
- “The essence of the current incarnation of capitalism is “surveillance capitalism,” as Shoshana Zuboff has demonstrated in her book of that name. High-tech companies profit by sucking up oceans of information from their customers and using it to compile behavioural portraits that they sell to advertisers. The more sophisticated these behaviour portraits become, the more they will be used to predict and control behaviour.”
- “Autonomous weaponry is the third revolution in warfare, following gunpowder and nuclear arms. The evolution from land mines to guided missiles was just a prelude to true AI-enabled autonomy—the full engagement of killing: searching for, deciding to engage, and obliterating another human life, completely without human involvement.”
- “The woman said the other black car had taken Ruth’s two daughters away, into emergency state care. And she told Ruth to hand over her two older sons to be taken away, too. The following day, two black cars appeared again. The couple assumed it had all been a terrible mistake and the children had been brought back.
But they were wrong. Four policemen got out. And took the baby.”
Hindus who believe that we can create a Dharmic Tech-State, in my honest opinion, are being too optimistic and perhaps naïve. Yes, we have to deal with our asuric rivals, but let us not drink their asuric Kool-Aid and imagine that it will lead to a Hindu destination.
If and when our asuric rivals collapse, or in the unlikely eventuality that we overcome them (while keeping our sense of self intact) and a true Dharmic Rashtra is established in Bharat, we must pay close attention to two key formulations that our rishis instituted – decentralization (the equivalent of jaati) and spiritualization (the equivalent of Sanatani ritual tradition). Without these two impulses being consciously embedded in our state apparatus, we will end up in an un-Hindu, and indeed in a non-human place.
Post Script: People have pointed out that my use of Tech-State falsely accuses innocent technology of all kinds of evils. I partially agree that it is the impulse to a centralized state with a mandate to impose and control a global centralized culture that is primarily at fault. This proselytizing universalism is a Christian impulse and it continues in the modern West in various secular forms.
But, at the same time, giving a clean chit to high technology does not seem entirely fair. It is like arguing that the gun did not shoot/kill the children at Sandy Hook, but it was the gunman. True, but it is also a little bit like the “Ashwatthama is dead” kind of truth. If the gun was not available, the crazy gunman could not have done as much damage as he did. The fact is that humans are not at the level of consciousness that allows for harmless access to technologies of such enormous consequence. It is high technology (especially geography/body eroding technologies, starting with the telegraph, locomotives, air travel, radio waves, internet, ICBM, nuclear warheads, CRISPR…) that pushed us past the tipping point. These technologies empowered the West’s post-Christian urge to total dominance. It is these technologies that give this post-Christian urge the means to actualize its evil intent. If we were not “frogs in the boiling water,” we would recognize that the journey from the Jewish Holocaust to COVID has been one hell of a wild ride for the Global State riding the Technological Horse. At this moment in history, I think it is fair to call this phenomenon the Tech-State, a symbiotic double-headed beast.
People who are still gung-ho about high technology have to demonstrate how they intend to subordinate high technology to a higher human value system and how they will create the necessary institutional circuit breakers to protect their human appliances from voltage surges in the system.
- Jordan Peterson, “Equity: When the Left Goes Too Far,” https://www.jordanbpeterson.com/political-correctness/equity-when-the-left-goes-too-far/
- James Varney (June 6, 2021). “Is mathematics racist? California could blaze pathway with woke math,” The Washington Times, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/jun/6/is-mathematics-racist-california-could-blaze-pathw/
- Daniel Sanderson (August 12, 2021). “Scottish four-year-olds can change gender at school without parents’ consent,” The Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/08/12/scottish-four-year-olds-can-change-gender-school-without-parents/
- Joshua Rhett Miller (November 15, 2021). “Virginia prof under fire after saying sexual attraction to children isn’t always immoral,” New York Post, https://nypost.com/2021/11/15/allyn-walker-says-attraction-to-children-isnt-immoral/
- Guy Kastler (July 22, 2005). Seed laws in Europe: Locking farmers out,” Grain, https://grain.org/article/entries/541-seed-laws-in-europe-locking-farmers-out?print=true#:~:text=The%20European%20law%20only%20allows,unable%20to%20maintain%20a%20variety.
- Devanathan Veerappan (January 3, 2020). ”Tamil Nadu: Cattle farmers worried about new breeding Act,” The Times of India, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/tamil-nadu-cattle-farmers-worried-about-new-breeding-act/articleshow/73079245.cms
- Olivia Solon (February 15, 2017). “Elon Musk says humans must become cyborgs to stay relevant. Is he right?” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/15/elon-musk-cyborgs-robots-artificial-intelligence-is-he-right
- Emile P. Torres (August 20, 2022). “Understanding ‘longtermism’: Why this suddenly influential philosophy is so toxic,” Salon, https://www.salon.com/2022/08/20/understanding-longtermism-why-this-suddenly-influential-philosophy-is-so/
- Shelly Fan (September 11, 2022). “Scientists Use CRISPR to Condense a Million Years of Evolution Into Mere Months,” Singularity Hub, https://singularityhub.com/2022/09/11/scientists-use-crispr-to-condense-a-million-years-of-evolution-into-mere-months/
- Adrian Wooldridge (September 12, 2022). “China’s Surveillance State Will be the West’s Future, Too,” Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-09-12/china-s-surveillance-state-will-be-the-west-s-future-too?leadSource=uverify%20wall
- Kai-Fu Lee (September 11, 2021). “The Third Revolution in Warfare,” The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2021/09/i-weapons-are-third-revolution-warfare/620013/
- Tim Whewell (April 14, 2016). “Norway’s Barnevernet: They took our four children… then the baby,” BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36026458
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